Mitragyna speciosa, also known as “kratom,” is a plant native to the rainforests of Southeast Asia that has long been used in traditional herbal medicine to treat pain, boost energy, alleviate anxiety and depression symptoms, and promote feelings of wellness and happiness. But because the plant allegedly exhibits opioid-like activity, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has placed it on its infamous Drugs and Chemicals of Concern list, which indicates that the agency may eventually try to ban kratom in the U.S.
Kratom’s users swear by its medicinal properties, insisting that it is safer and more effective than prescription painkillers like Vicodin (acetaminophen and hydrocodone) and morphine, and far less addictive. But the DEA is treating kratom as if it was a highly-dangerous drug capable of causing severe harm. So is kratom safe and effective, or is it dangerous?
Based on the limited data that is available on kratom, it appears as though the actual plant extract itself is basically safe, and that the DEA is simply overreacting. Even in its own warning, the DEA notes that the main problems associated with kratom have to do with it being abused, and typically in conjunction with other chemicals and additives. By itself, in other words, there appears to be no legitimate evidence showing that kratom is in any way dangerous.
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Kratom appears safer and more effective than pharmaceutical drugs at treating chronic pain
A 1988 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that two of the more than 25 naturally-occurring alkaloids found in kratom leaves — mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine — exhibit opiate-like effects in animals. And yet these two compounds merely act on opiate receptors, and in a much less severe way than, say, morphine, which is highly addictive and potentially deadly (http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com).
On the other hand, kratom users say the herb helps them live vibrant, pain-free lives without causing any harmful side effects. And most reports, though anecdotal, claim that any potential addiction to kratom is mild and easily mitigated. So who are we to trust, actual users or the DEA?
Unless it can be proven, without a doubt, that kratom is in any way dangerous, the federal government has no business trying to ban it. And even then, caution must be taken to ensure that kratom does not go the way of marijuana, which continues to remain an illegal, controlled substance despite the fact that it is a proven medicinal herb with little or no negative side effects.
Kratom has already been banned in Indiana, but it remains legal in the other 49 U.S. states. And in the interests of preserving health freedom for the thousands of kratom users that choose of their own free will to use this herb as treatment, it is important to be on the lookout for any legislation that might threaten to outlaw this natural medicine.
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